Georgia Tech's new online Master's degree in Computer Science program, OMS CS, developed in conjunction with Udacity and AT&T has started with around 375 students.
Numbers for this first semester, which is considered a pilot for the rolling program that will subsequently increase in size and merit MOOC status, were limited, subject to demand to 100 students per course.
The five courses that are currently on offer are:
- Advanced Operating Systems
- Computer Networks
- Machine Learning
- Software Development Process
- Artificial Intelligence for Robotics
According to the Udacity blog these courses, which have been created with Georgia Tech professors:
build on our goal of partnering with academia and industry to create courses to fill the job skills gap.
The blog also points out that the same courses will be available for everyone in the world on the Udacity platform this Spring.
The idea of the Georgia Tech Online Masters program is to offer an online graduate degree for a fraction of the cost of its on-campus equivalent. Based on taking two courses per semester a student could expect to complete the OMS CS in 3 years at a cost of $6,600. total program cost of about $6,600 over six terms. Students who complete their programs more quickly will pay less; those who take longer will pay more.
According to Georgia Tech:
OMS CS received 2,360 applications during a three-week period in October, which is approximately 75 percent more applications than are received for the on-campus program during an entire year. Of those 2,360 applicants, 401 students were offered admission during the Spring 2014 semester (additional applicants will be admitted for subsequent terms).
The demographic of the pilot intake is unusual.
For a start there was a 95% take up rate of places offered. The average age of the students is 34.8, about 11 years older than their on-campus counterparts and 88% of them are US citizens or permanent residents, which is in contrast to Georgia Tech’s on-campus MS CS students, about 90% of whom are international students.
The most significant distinguishing characteristic of the online students is they are combining their graduate education with full time employment. More than 80 of the initial students are employees of AT&T, which as a founding partner provided $2 million towards the program costs and intends to use OMS CS as a significant training option for its workforce.
One such student, Beth Sacker, a Principal Technical Architect for AT&T based in New York City jumped at the chance to enroll in the program, with the aim of working toward a dual specialization in Systems and Networking, saying on the AT&T blog that:
"Since my college graduation in 1989, it has been on my “bucket list” to pursue a master’s degree in Computer Science,"
Explaining how work and family commitment (twins) had made it impossible to commit to classroom instruction when it was offered previously Beth goes on:
With the ability to work towards a degree wherever there is a broadband connection, this opportunity came at the right time and right place in my life. My children are older. And I can devote time at night, on the weekends or even on my lunch hour without having to step a foot outside my workplace. I work and live in a “remote” part of New Jersey and not having to drive two hours several times a week is immensely appealing.
This fits in with the opinion of Nelson Baker, Georgia Tech’s dean of professional education, who stated:
“This program addresses a clear and growing need globally: to provide flexible, high-quality education in vital fields for a price that’s affordable for working professionals.
Almost every student enrolled this spring is also working full time, something that would be extremely difficult to do in a traditional program. OMS CS represents a valuable option to a population of students who need it.”
The scheduled admission periods for OMS CS beyond the pilot presentation are March 3-23 for admission for Summer 2014 and April 21-May 11 for Fall 2014.
Not every student wants a formal qualification and there will be others who don't meet the entry requirements which include having a 4-year bachelor's degree or its equivalent and satisfactory scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) which applies to all non-US students including those from English speaking countries. For this, potentially larger group, Udacity will be offering the same content for free on the same basis as its other courses.